Trust sells Vedanta shares over human rights abuse

Date of publication: 
18 February 2010

New Delhi: After the Church of England, another British investor has decided to sell its shares worth 2.2 million pounds (Rs.159 million/$3.5 million) in the Indian-owned mining company Vedanta Resources, citing serious concerns about the company’s approach to human rights and environment in Orissa.

International NGO ActionAid said that the Joseph Rowntree Trust withdrew its support to Vedanta, becoming the fourth high profile company to do so since 2007 on the same grounds.

“The announcement by the Joseph Rowntree Trust comes in the backdrop of another high-profile withdrawal from the company by the Church of England earlier this month on similar grounds,” a statement by ActionAid said Thursday.

“This takes the tally of institutional investors withdrawing from the company to four since 2007. The first withdrawal was by The Norwegian Pension Fund,” it added.

Members of Orissa’s Kondh tribe who are immediately affected by the mining work by Vedanta hailed the decision.

Kumti Majhi, a member of the tribe who is in Delhi to deliver a petition to the prime minister on the issue, said: “We are very happy with all the support that we have got for our struggle from different parts of the world. We thank the Church of England for their decision and also the Joseph Rowntree Trust”.

Bratindi Jena, who works on tribal rights on behalf of ActionAid India, said: “Vedanta’s proposed destruction of the sacred mountain of the Kondh tribe in eastern India, the Nyamgiri hills, could destroy their way of life and their precious environment forever”.

“The Kondh people today came one step closer to winning their fight. We now urge other investors to reconsider whether they really want to put their money into a company like Vedanta,” she added.

Last year Vedanta was publicly rebuked by the British government for failing to respect the human rights of the Dongria Kondh. The government said “a change in the company’s behaviour” was “essential”.

The Norwegian government sold its $13 million stake in Vedanta in 2007, while Martin Currie Investments sold their 2.3 million pound stake last year, and BP’s pension fund reduced its holdings due to “concerns about the way the company operates”.